On top of that list should be Marietta resident Andy McCollum.
His name should also be the only one on it.
Right now, unless there is a mystery candidate, the list likely consists of three names:
* McCollum, the head coach at Middle Tennessee State from 1999-2005 and now the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech.
* Brian Bohannon, Georgia Tech’s quarterbacks and B-backs coach.
* Chris Hatcher, the current head coach at Murray State and former coach at Valdosta State and Georgia Southern.
All three meet the criteria Kennesaw State athletic director Vaughn Williams put forth when the university made the announcement that football would come to campus in the fall of 2015.
“My preference will be someone from Georgia — a native son that has done good work and works well with the student-athletes,” he said.
But that’s where the similarities end and McCollum separates himself from the others.
The 42-year-old Bohannon is from Griffin and has spent the last 17 years working for Johnson at Georgia Southern, Navy and Tech. Requests to speak with Bohannon — as well as McCollum — were declined by a Georgia Tech spokesman, but considering Bohannon’s innate knowledge of the triple-option offense, it’s hard to imagine him running something else at KSU.
But is that something that KSU or its fan base would want to embrace?
Georgia Tech, Army, Navy and Air Force have had limited success running it on the FBS level. The reason it is hard to be consistent winners with the triple option is that the best athletes often don’t want to play in that kind of system. It can be hard to get to the NFL playing in the triple-option, and in many cases, the system is considered to be a gimmick.
Georgia Southern is the closest program that comes to running the triple option to perfection, which begs another question. If the best players that fit into that offense have a choice, why wouldn’t they go play for the team that goes deep into the FCS playoffs each season as opposed to a start-up program?
Another issue against Bohannon is that he has not been a coordinator, let alone a head coach before. While every head coach has to start somewhere, the coach of a brand-new program is pulled 24 hours a day in two or three different directions. A new coach has to be a fund-raiser and do almost as many public appearances as a candidate running for office — in addition to building a coaching staff and recruiting players.
KSU needs to get this hire right, and that would be asking Bohannon to do too much.
The Macon-born Hatcher would seem to be a better choice, but it’s not the right one.
Yes, he has head-coaching experience. He has a wide-open style of offense that can be fun to watch. And he has won a Division II national championship with Valdosta State.
Winning a national title is a big deal, but since leaving the Division II ranks, Hatcher has not come close to replicating that success.
Hatcher was 18-15 at Georgia Southern from 2007-09 and never finished higher than third in the Southern Conference standings. He posted the same 18-15 mark the last three years at Murray State and finished sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference last season.
His best season at both stops was 7-4, when most of the team was still players he had inherited from past coaches. In each case, Hatcher’s teams took a step back in his third season, posting identical 5-6 marks.
A big reason for Hatcher’s struggles may be because he is playing by different recruiting rules in FCS football, as opposed to Division II. Valdosta State didn’t have the academic requirements that he has to follow now, and he could take more chances with potential recruits with questionable grades.
One thing that may work in Hatcher’s favor is his price tag. He currently makes a base salary of less that $150,000, according to public records in Kentucky, and KSU could hire him at or near the bottom of the $200,000-$225,000 range the Owls’ job will pay.
Bohannon and McCollum would be making a lateral move salary-wise.
But that is just another reason McCollum is the best candidate for the job.
The 54-year-old McCollum wants to be a head coach again, and he wants to do it near his hometown. People close to him say this isn’t a stepping-stone job — he wants this job, and this is where he wants to retire.
It would be hard to assume that would be the same for Bohannon or Hatcher.
McCollum knows that this is Cobb County’s chance to shine, and the opportunity to have one of the county’s own build a name for the new program. The third of four generations to play football at Marietta High School, he intimately knows how the quality of high school football has improved in the area, and the significant impact it could have in constructing KSU’s program.
He would bring 30 years of coaching experience to the job, and with his contacts, there may be some big-name opponents on KSU’s schedule earlier than later.
McCollum would likely run a spread-style offense similar to what Middle Tennessee used when he led the Blue Raiders to the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2001. That should allow KSU a good shot at recruiting a lot of talent from the metro-Atlanta area, as many of the local high schools have incorporated the spread.
And McCollum has one more thing working in his favor. He knows how to transition a team into the Football Bowl Subdivision, having done the same at Middle Tennessee.
Kennesaw State president Dan Papp said he is comfortable with playing at the FCS level, and he would not authorize a move to FBS. But he can’t speak for the next president that follows him five or more years from now.
Who knows, Kennesaw State may be the second team McCollum would get to transition into the Sun Belt, Conference USA or some other conference.
McCollum is the right guy for the job for now, and in the future.
Let’s hope Williams, Papp and the decision-makers at Kennesaw State see it that way.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/jbednarowski.